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Japan’s fighting Floatplanes! Part 1

4 Mar

When most people think of floatplanes they think of small, ungainly and totally non threatening aircraft such as the Vought OS2U Kingfisher or the Supermarine Walrus. It appears that someone forgot to tell the Japanese that floatplanes are only slow, harmless, aircraft plodding along the water. Hence they fielded some of the highest performance combat floatplanes seen during the Second World War. This article will deal with Japanese floatplane fighters and a follow up will deal with their advanced reconnaissance models.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) formulated the idea that high performance float equipped fighters could operate from lagoons or improvised shore bases to support landings in the central Pacific and Solomon Islands where no airfields, or few of them, existed. This was also necessary as the Japanese lacked enough heavy earth moving equipment to build new airfields on her recently occupied islands with any speed. This proved to be a weakness of theirs throughout the Pacific War.

To fill this need the IJN requested that Kawanishi design an offensive floatplane fighter capable of providing close air support to landing forces. This would take some time since Kawanishi was starting from scratch, so the navy instructed Nakajima develop a floatplane version of the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero. The proposal went to Nakajima and not to the Zero’s originator Mitsubishi, since Mitsubishi’s production lines were already full and Nakajima was already building the Zero under contract (Nakajima would eventually build more Zeros than Mitsubishi).

NakaJima A6M2-N “Rufe”

Nakajima’s design team started by using the powerplant, fuselage and wings of an A6M2 Mod.11. They then modified the tail and rudder, as well as adding one main centerline float along with two wing mounted stabilizing floats. Since the addition of the center line float meant that a drop tank could not be carried an extra fuel tank was placed inside of the float. While slower than the fighter version of the Zero (270Mph Vs. 331Mph) it was still fast enough to be formidable and retained much of the original  Zero’s maneuverability. It also retained the two machine guns and two heavy 20mm cannon of the regular Zero fighter. It could also carry a pair of  132 lbs. bombs.

The A6M2-N never partook in any amphibious landings as it entered service shortly after the capture of Rabaul and the Solomon Islands group. Instead they acted as point interceptors due to the lack of Japanese air fields in the Solomon’s. They proved very vulnerable to allied bombing raids, and had trouble mixing it up with the aircraft of the Cactus Air Force flying from Guadalcanal. They could be effective against unescorted bombers, torpedo planes, allied float planes and even PT Boats, but lacked the performance to go toe to toe with US single engined fighters. The “Rufe” as the allied code named it, also saw action in the Aleutian islands battling US and Canadian P-40s and other aircraft. Later the  “Rufe” acted as a lead in trainer for a far more capable warplane, the Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu.

Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu “Rex”

The aircraft originally envisioned to fulfill the IJN’s need for an offensive floatplane was the robust N1K1 Kyofu (Mighty Wind) designed by Kawanishi, a company with extensive experience building advanced amphibious aircraft and flying boats. The Kyofu was much larger than the float equipped Zero with a far more powerful 1,530-hp 14 cylinder Kasei engine driving a 3 blade propeller on an extended shaft. This gave the N1K1 a top speed of 304Mph. The N1K1 prototypes had a contra rotating propeller, Kawanishi’s thinking was that this would correct the effects of on-water torque during takeoff. But difficulty with the gearbox caused Kawanishi to use a conventional single shaft propeller arrangement which proved adequate.

The layout of the Kyofu was conventional, being a mid-wing monoplane with a conventional tail and a bubble canopy that provided excellent vision. It was armed with 2 cowl mounted 7.7mm machine guns and 2 wing mounted 20mm cannon and could carry 2 66 lbs bombs, half the bomb load than the smaller A6M2-N.

While the Kyofu was a very promising design,  it was no longer needed by the time it entered service. The IJN no longer needed an offensive floatplane fighter as it was purely on the defensive by late 1943. N1k1s saw service at Balikpapan in Indonesia and later operated out of Like Biwa on mainland Japan, alongside the A6M2-N. No successes or losses attributable to the type can be found in any English language sources (that I am aware of). It was given the allied codename “Rex”. The importance of the N1K1 was that Kawanishi saw that it had a real winner with the airframe of this aircraft and later redesigned it as the land based N1K1-J Shiden. The Shiden and improved Shiden-Kai were among the best Japanese fighters of the Pacific war.

Analysis

The idea of using floatplanes for close air support wasn’t necessarily a bad one. What really undid these aircraft was that they arrived too late on the scene to make a difference and were not as combat effective as their land based counterparts. Also to perform true close air support these aircraft would have needed more potent close support weapons, like heavy bombs,or rockets. Instead all they could carry was a pair of very light bombs.

Some Japanese Navy pilots did prove their mettle in air to air combat with the “Rufe”.  Lt.(jg) Keizo Yamazaki claimed a P-39 in his “Rufe” which was also adorned with markings for 2 more kills scored by other pilots. Also CPO Eitoku Matsunaga flew a “Rufe” adorned with lightning bolts and is alleged to be the highest scoring floatplane pilot of the war with 8 kills. This has been difficult to prove since CPO Mastunaga has not verified these claims and apparently will not discuss the war

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Specification for the A6M2-N

General characteristics

  • Length: 10.10 m (33ft 1⅝ in)
  • Wingspan: 12.00 m (39 ft 4⅜ in)
  • Height: 4.30 m (14ft 1⅜ in)
  • Wing area: 22.44 m² (251.4 sq ft)
  • Empty Weight: 1,912 kg (4,235 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,460 kg (5,423 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,880 kg (6,349 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Nakajima NK1C Sakae 12 air cooled 14 cylinder radial engine, 950 hp (709 kW) at 4,200 m (13,800 ft)

Performance

  • Maximun speed: 436 km/h (235 knots, 270.5 mph) at 5,000 m (16,400 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 296 km/h (160 knots, 184 mph)
  • Range: 1,782 km (963 nmi, 1,107 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 10,000 m (32,800 ft)
  • Climb to 5,000 m (16,400 ft): 6 min 43 s

Armament

  • Guns:
    • 2 × 7.7 mm Type 97  – machine guns in forward fuselage
    • 2 ×20 mm Type 99 cannon  – fixed in outer wings
  • Bombs: 2 × 60 kg (132 lb) bombs

Production: 327

Specification for the Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu

General Charateristics

  • Length: 10.50m (34 ft. 9 1/4 in.)
  • Wingspan: 12.00m (39 ft. 4 1/2 in.)
  • Height: 4.75m (15 ft. 7in.)
  • Wing area: 23.50m squared (252.96 sq ft.)
  • Empty weight: 2750 kg (6,063 lb.)
  • Loaded weight: 3,500 kg (7,716 lb.)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3710 kg (8,179 lb.)
  • Powerplant: One 1,530-hp (1141-kW) Mitsubishi MK4E Kasei 15 14-cylinder radial piston engine

Performance

  • Maximum Speed: 264 kt at 5,700 m (304 mph at 18,700 ft.)
  • Cruise speed: 200 kt at 2,000 m (230 mph at 6,500 ft.)
  • Range: normal 570 naut miles (656 st miles) maximum 900 naut miles (1,036 st miles)
  • Service Ceiling: 10,560 m (34,645 ft.)
  • Climb to 5,000 m (16,405 ft.): 5 min. 52 sec.

Armament

  • Guns:
  • 2x fuselage mounted 7.7 Type 97 machine guns
  • 2x wing-mounted 20mm Type 99 Model 1 cannon
  • Bombs: 2x 30kg (66 lb.) bombs

Production: 97

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Fairey Albacore: In the shadow of the Swordfish

27 Feb

It’s difficult making a name for yourself when you have a popular sibling. All the more worse when you strongly resemble and are often confused for them as well. Such is the case of the Fairy Albacore, the intended replacement for the famous Swordfish torpedo bomber.

The Albacore was Fairey aviation’s intended follow up to its Swordfish torpedo bomber then (1936) entering service with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). The Albacore seemed like the next logical step following the Swordfish. Compared to its predecessor, the Albacore had an enclosed cockpit Vs. the open air one on the Swordfish, possessed increased speed (161mph vs 139mph) and could carry 2,000 lbs. of bombs vs. 1,500lbs on the former aircraft. Both aircraft had similar range, were armed with a single forward firing 303. machine gun and a rear firing 303. K-gun and both carried the standard 1,670 lb. aerial torpedo.  The Albacore also had some unique features for the day such as cockpit heating, a wiper for the windscreen and a dinghy that automatically deployed in case the crew needed to ditch in the sea.

But acceptance would prove to be difficult for the Albacore. There was really not much wrong with the aircraft expect that the elevator and ailerons controls were heavy. In fact it was very steady in a dive , the cockpit provided excellent visibility and recovery after dropping a torpedo was described as being smooth. All in all it was a sturdy, reliable aircraft, but so was the older Swordfish,which had almost the same combat prowess. The big difference was that the Swordfish had unbelievable agility,could be mastered with great ease and had already become very popular with FAA pilots.

The Albacore entered FAA in 1940, before the Swordfish had gained a name for itself. The” Applecore” as its crews nick named it, started its war by supporting the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk, battled E-boats off the Zeebrugge and attacked shipping and harbor installations in occupied France, initially flying from bases in the UK. In March 1941 flying from the HMS Formidable, Albacores torpedoed the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto during the Battle of Cape Matapan. The torpedo hit on her aft port side braking the outboard shaft and sheering off the port screw. After extensive flooding aft Veneto, the most powerful Italian surface present had to exit the battle.

Later in 1942 Albacores made the only airborne torpedo attack on the German battleship Tirpitz while she was at sea, missing her bow by mere feet. The Albacores also flew out of the besieged island fortress of Malta, at times almost totally running out of aircraft due to attrition. During and following the siege they attacked Axis shipping, provided flare illumination for the bombardment of Pantellaria island, and provided support during the invasion of Sicily.

At a peak of equipping 15 FAA squadrons the Albacore started to vanish from front line use in 1943 when its production was stopped. It was replaced by the Fairey Barracuda and Grumman Avenger in most squadrons. It had fought hard and well and while popular with ts crews it was never as well loved as the Swordfish, which continued to serve from escort carriers and land bases up to the very end of the war. The Albacore’s was an unsung war, one in which it served alongside the aircraft it was to replace and was also outlived by it. On top of that many people contribute its exploits to the Swordfish due to their similar appearance. But the old “Applecore” was a tough aircraft whose crews fought hard during Britain’s darkest days and proved that they lacked not an ounce of courage that their brothers flying in the Swordfish had demonstrated.

General characteristics

  • Crew: Three
  • Length: 39 ft 10 in (12.14 m)
  • Wingspan: 50 ft 0 in (15.24 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 2 in (4.62 m)
  • Wing area: 623 ft² (57.9 m²)
  • Empty weight: 7,250 lb (3,295 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 10,460 lb (4,755 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 12,600 lb  (5,727 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1× Bristol Taurus II (Taurus XII) 14-cylinder radial engine, 1,065 hp (1,130 hp) (794 kW (840 kw))

Performance

  • Maximum Speed: 140 kn (161 mph, 259 km/h)
  • Cruise Speed: 122 kn (140 mph, 225 km/h) (maximum cruise)
  • Stall Speed: 47 kn (54 mph, 87 km/h) (flaps down)
  • Range: 817 nmi (930 mi, 1,497 km) (with torpedo)
  • Service ceiling: 20,700 ft (6,310 m)
  • Climb to 6000 ft 8 min

Armament

  • Guns:
    • 1 × fixed, forward-firing .303in (7.7 mm) machine gun in starboard wing
    • 1 or 2 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in rear cockpit.
  • Bombs: 1 × 1,670 lb (760 kg) torpedo or 2,000 lb (907 kg) bombs

Samurai!

22 Feb

Saburo Sakai was a fighter pilot for eight years, shot down 64 aircraft, was wounded twice, lost an eye, was never shot down and never lost a wingman. Published in 1957, “Samurai!” by Martin Caidin and Fred Saito was one of the first books that detailed a first-person account of the war from the Japanese side of the conflict.

Caidin was a prolific aviation writer for most of his life. He has an easy-flowing style that gives you a fair amount of detail without bogging you down with too much technical wording or phrases.

Consequently, his books are excellent for people unfamiliar with combat aviation or are looking to start reading about it. The book is based on Saito’s interviews with Saburo Sakai and read as if they were written in the first person for the most part.

The book chronicles the life of Sakai, a poor farm boy of samurai ancestry. We follow his childhood and struggles with school. He decides to join the Imperial Japanese Navy (I.J.N.) at the age of 17. He vividly describes the brutal conditions of Japanese navy training and life as an enlisted man on a battleship. We get an insight on a culture and mentality that would never be allowed to exist in this country, even in the mid ’30s. As sadistic as Sakai’s introduction to the navy may have been, we quickly see how that toughness serves him well.

Sakai’s chronicle of his pilot training in the navy is truly eye-opening. With a nearly 90 percent washout rate, the Imperial Japanese Navy had some of the highest quality pilots in the world. The Japanese favored training in dog fighting and due to that, they built nimble, lightly constructed fighters with light armament.

Sakai gets his baptism of fire during the Sino-Japanese war in China and after a rough start becomes an accomplished pilot and a hero in his small hometown. Toward the end of his tour in China, we get introduced to the “other” star of our book – the Mitsubishi A6M Zero Carrier fighter.

Deriving its name from the last digits of the Japanese calendar (00), the Zero had an enclosed cockpit, retractable landing gear, an auxiliary jettisonable fuel tank, two machine guns and two heavy 20 mm cannon in the wings. Its Allied counterparts in 1939 were either biplanes or rudimentary open cockpit monoplanes. The Zero was the first naval fighter that easily outclassed its ground-based counterparts and was master of the Pacific skies till late 1942.

Sakai begins the war in the Pacific by attacking American airfields in the Philippines, flying some of the longest missions in history to date. Sakai and his squadron quickly mop up most of the opposition and are  fighting next in the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia).

At this point, we find a flaw in the book. Caidin took liberties with some of Sakai’s exploits, one case being an aerial dogfight that takes place in the East Indies that Sakai disputes happened. We see two or three other such discrepancies with the book.

We follow Sakai for the next year, racking up an impressive amount of kills and we also get insight into several other well-known pilots. Sakai is severely wounded in late 1942 and is sent back to Japan. On his return to combat in 1944, he finds a very different war.

Most of his squadron mates have been killed and the allies now field aircraft superior to the Zero and also appear in far greater numbers. Sakai fights at Iwo Jima and ends the war in fighting in the air defense Japan itself.

In between his combat stories, we do get insight into his private life. He ends up getting married during the war and both his wife and his mother become pillars of strength for Sakai at various low points in the war.

Overall, “Samurai!” is an outstanding work. While it does have some embellishments, these are documented elsewhere and don’t detract from the overall narrative. It’s filled with non-stop action and a wonderful insight into the Japanese mindset. This is a must have for any aviation fanatic. So strap yourself into the cockpit and let Saburo Sakai be your wingman.

Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat

22 Feb

It takes great drive and a strong effort to build an effective air force. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t take much to ruin one. “Why Air Forces Fail” is a collection of 11 essays on specific air forces, which details how and why these air forces met with defeat, either temporary or permanent. Large air forces such as the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and German Luftwaffe are covered, as well as the smaller services of Poland, Egypt and Argentina.

The editors have arranged the book into three sections: “Dead Ducks,” which are air forces that were doomed to fail from the start; “Hares,” which are air forces that started strong but lacked staying power to win in the long run; and “Phoenixes,” air forces that started out terribly but rose from the ashes and were ultimately victorious.

The overall quality of writing is very good. Keep in mind that it’s a work with contributions from multiple authors, so everyone brings their own writing style to the table. Nothing strikes the reader as hard to understand or follow smoothly.

Each essay is written by a different author, in some cases are well-known authors in their specific field of study. Most of the 11 essays are excellent, but a few are just good and one or two will make you wonder why they’re even included.

For example, the essay on the Arab air forces is  skimpy on reliable information, and many of the conclusions are questionable. The Saudi Arabian air force is given a positive nudge, even while its performance during the 1991 Gulf War is highly suspect.

The essay on the Russian air forces isn’t so much bad (it’s not) as it is too broad. It covers World War I briefly and covers the Soviet Air Force’s rise, fall and resurgence to aerial supremacy in World War II. A more focused summary could have been more effective (i.e., pick only the one or the other). That, or an individual work on the subject.

Essays on some of the lesser-known air forces are fantastic. The Italian Regia Aeronautica during World War II is covered, and the information is very insightful. We can see how the politics and mismanaged industry kept the Italians years behind where they needed to be technologically.

The essay of the Argentine air force is phenomenal. It’s the only essay in the book that details how air power alone almost won this conflict if not for politics and better-trained British forces. It also covers the skill and endless difficulties the Argentine Air Force had to deal while detailing how it came close to victory.

All and all, this is an extremely interesting read. Some have complained that the essays are too isolated, or that they don’t tie in the lessons from one essay with another, or that it doesn’t cover the whole subject of why air power hasn’t won a war on its own. But this book isn’t a work of air-power theory: It’s, as the title states, Why air forces fail, not why air power in general can fail.

It has its bones of contention, and the reader may not agree with all the findings depending on his or her preference, but that is one of this book’s strengths. Again, it has one or two weak essays, but the quality of the others more than makes up for this.

This is a solid work for anyone wanting to learn why air forces, including those held in high esteem, can fail or have suffered a harsh learning curve. It’s excellent in that it covers multiple histories not usually found together, which is convenient compared to finding multiple larger works.

USN F-4 Phantom II Vs. VPAF MiG-17/19

22 Feb

And the hits keep on coming.

Peter Davies’ follow up to “F-4 Phantom II Vs. MiG-21” is every bit engaging as his earlier work. While the former book dealt with US Air Force Phantom operations, this work covers US Navy use of the Phantom. Also, the Vietnamese opposition now takes shape in the form of the MiG-17 and MiG-19.

This book is volume 23 of Osprey Publishing’s “versus” series, which pits comparable military hardware against their counterparts. This time, it covers two classic Vietnam foes and it makes for compelling reading, chronicling how what should have been a one-sided US turkey shoot turned into a struggle for air superiority. The book is profusely illustrated with excellent pictures of planes and pilots, showing details of the aircraft and putting faces to the pilots in the narrative.

Excellent use of captions appears throughout the book. In the case of the MiG-17 Davies uses these to point out small details to show the reader how to tell a Soviet built MiG-17 from a Chinese built version (the Shenyang J-5). He also shows some details rarely seen. For instance it is well-known that the MiG-17 had excellent visibility out of its cockpit, but Davies shows how there is plenty of framing and heating elements that actually block a lot of the pilot’s view.

The book also contains gorgeous color plates of both aircraft, their cockpits and drawings of their weapon systems. As in the other “Versus” titles two biographies of notable F-4 and MiG pilots are also thrown in for good measure. These are notable because Davies didn’t take the easy route and cover pilots with ace status only. The VPAF pilot is an ace but the USN pilot isn’t, but had an amazingly colorful career.

Davies clearly describes the development of all three aircraft. It’s intriguing to see the very different design philosophies of the USA and USSR. The US concentrating on speed and avionics while the Soviets concentrated on reliability, ease of construction and maneuverability.

In 1965, the F-4 Phantom II was the most modern fighter in the western world. Meanwhile, the MiG-17 was considered a decade out of date and the MiG-19 was viewed as a stop-gap while the MiG-21 was entering service. As it turned out, the Phantom’s missiles needed serious bugs worked out and were unreliable and the F-4 pilots needed much better air combat training. It was also easy to spot visually due to its large airframe and smoky engines.

Meanwhile the heavy cannons on the MiGs, designed to shoot down NATO bombers, proved a deadly threat in a dogfight. A single hit from the MiG’s 37mm cannon could devastate a Phantom. The “old” MiG-17 proved extremely capable in a turning fight and the MiG-19 turned out to be one of the best balanced fighters of its day, mixing good armament, speed and maneuverability. Both were also very hard to spot visually due to their diminutive size.

He covers the progression of the F-4 and how its adoption drastically changed US fighter tactics. Dogfighting against enemy aircraft was viewed as a thing of the past. Now, the Phantom would loiter above the US fleet AND fire its radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles several miles away and would only use its short ranged AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles if the Sparrows happened to have missed.

But as Davies chronicles through the firsthand accounts of Phantom pilots the Sparrows usually did miss. In one case an AIM-7 exploded under the Phantom that fired it and knocked it out of the fight. In these circumstances, the F-4 crew was now dangerously close to the more maneuverable MiGs.

The MiG-17 was a development of the successful MiG-15 from the Korean War. They look similar and that fact caused the US military to underestimate it as a warmed over MiG-15. In fact, the MiG-17 was a total new aircraft with much better performance and phenomenal low-speed maneuverability. The MiG-19 was similar but had better supersonic speed and better performance, albeit it was used in low numbers by the Vietnamese People’s Air Force (VPAF).

Davies tells of how the Navy, alarmed at how poor its Phantoms where doing against the older MiG-17, quickly set out to rectify its deficiencies. They set out to improve the reliability of its versions of the Sidewinder and Sparrow. They also created the Naval Fighter Weapons School, aka “TOP GUN.”

Davies writes that the Vietnamese were not idle and also developed tactics to exploits their jets dogfighting prowess. Through accounts and diagrams he showed how the MiGs would fly in a Lufbery circle or “Wagon Wheel” formation trapping US airplanes inside of it. They also tried to hug the ground to confuse the radar on board the Phantom.

All in all, this book is a real treat. It flows smoothly as do most of Davies books. It seems less technical than does his earlier “versus” title, but that is because the Navy took a less technical approach to the MiG threat.
The book does have some minor points of interest that are lacking. Navy phantoms never had built-in guns and had to rely on external pods and Davies did not mention their employment. He also did not mention that MiG-17 began using air to air missiles late in the war. Again, these may not have been used against US Navy aircraft, but he should have clarified this.

These facts can be forgiven because the overall quality is great. It makes for insightful reading, filled with equal parts of tech data and war stories. It’s highly recommended that you read this along with his earlier “F-4 Vs. MiG-21” title to see just how differently the US Air Force and Navy answered the MiG threat.

This book is fact filled, easily read, and affordable. What’s not to love?

F-4 Phantom II Vs. MiG-21

22 Feb

There are quite a few books out there about the air war over Vietnam – and most of them utilize the same rehashed information from the early 90s, rely heavily on U.S. sources and tell very little about the Vietnamese side of events.

Peter Davies’ F-4 Phantom II Vs. MiG-21, however, does an excellent job of illustrating  both sides of the cloudy history of the war torn skies above Vietnam.

This book is volume 12 in the “versus” series by Osprey publishing. Each volume pits two equivalent pieces of military equipment against each other and explores their various merits and the tactics of the opposing sides. In this case, we get a peek at two of the most advanced fighter jets available to each side during the war — the U.S. Air Force’s McDonald Douglas F-4 Phantom II and the Vietnamese People’s Air Force’s (VPAF) Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 fighter aircraft.

Considering this book is only 80 pages long and covers just two aircraft types out of dozens that fought in the war, Davies does a phenomenal job chronicling the air war.

Davies writes in a very clear, straightforward style that makes certain complex technical info- about radar and electronic warfare- very easy to follow. The most important aspect of the book is the large amount of data about the VPAF, which is missing from the vast majority of works out there. He goes into detail about capabilities of the MiG-21’s radar and weapon systems (again almost always missing) and the effectiveness of Vietnamese Ground Intercept Radar, which is often misunderstood and biased by cold war propaganda.

He explains quite clearly that while the VPAF played a relatively minor role in the overall war effort, it did fight extremely effectively and performed far better than what they’ve been given credit for in the past.
His coverage of the F-4 Phantom II is also excellent. While info on the F-4 if not hard to get, as it’s one of the most documented aircraft around, he does add some refreshing insight on the aircraft.

Davies details the USAF usage of the F-4 which greatly varies from what the U.S. Navy did with it. He explains the terrible shortfall in US missile technology, how the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles were barely acceptable (out of 612 AIM-7s fired only 56 scored kills) and that the AIM-4 Falcon was all but useless.

He also tells of how the USAF took an almost purely technical approach to the problem, trying to improve the Phantom and its weapon systems, rather than improve tactics.

Davies uses words, excellent photographs and diagrams to explain how air combat between the two jets evolved between 1967 and 1972. Newer versions of both aircraft came on the scene as the war progressed; better than earlier models (especially in the MiG’s case) as did tactics. Vietnamese ground controllers developed new tactics to match superior numbers of US aircraft such as vectoring two MiG-21s on target to distract escorting Phantoms, while a third MiG sneaks up and picks off the last aircraft in formation.

This is by far one of the best books on the subject and is more than worth the $17.95 list price. Also included are brief yet thorough biographies on two famous pilots from each side for your comparison.
The only other book half as good is “Clashes” by Marshall L. Michell, although that is much larger and covers  the entire air war.

If you want to learn how a small third world air force could hold its own against the most advanced aerial armada in the world, this is the book for you.